It’s been said that “Letter writing is an art. But it is more than that. Letter writing is heart.”
That was certainly true of “Mitch” and Anne Jeanne “A.J.” Mitchell. They fell in love before WWII and when Mitch was swept away by the winds of war, it was their letters that kept their love alive. Millions of GIs like Mitch took pen to paper and poured out their hearts to their wives and sweethearts during those tumultuous years. Mitch served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy and spent the better part of three years away from his A.J. while she fought the battle of separation on the home front. He served as a Lieutenant in the 54th Medical Battalion, set up field hospitals and directed ambulances to and from the front lines. For his service, he won the Bronze Star.
During his service, Mitch wrote more than seventy letters and cards from 1943 to 1946. They were the heart strings that kept Mitch and A.J.’s love alive. When he returned after the war, they married, raised a family, and stayed together for 53 years until 1999. “A.J.” lived three more years and slipped into eternity in 2002. When their children – Kevin, Brian, Jeanne, and Chris – took care of her belongings they found the letters Mitch had written. The words they read echoed whispers of love from an era gone by. Handwritten letters and notes, hidden in the closet, stuffed in a shoe box, and locked in her heart. They held the aroma of romance, the sounds of war, and the pain of parting. Who knew she kept these treasures of her heart after all these years? Of all the earthly belongings left behind by this wife, mother, and grandmother, the most treasured were these letters.
Chris Mitchell, the Middle East Bureau Chief for CBN News has told the story of Mitch and A.J. – his Dad and Mom - in a new book called Dearest AJ: The Letters that Kept Love Alive in the Midst of War. It’s a chronicle of their love story and Mitch’s war experiences that he began to tell in his first letter from May 8th, 1943:
Dear Ann, Arrived safely somewhere in North Africa. When this messed up world settles down I will be able to tell you in the fullest detail the episodes of my travels.”
It’s also a testament to how God answered their prayers like this one from his letter on July 26, 1944:
Dearest A.J. “…It looks like this — war will be over soon, at least the
end is in sight. The Germans still have a lot of fight left in them even they know they lost the war. It looks like they are intent on making it a costly victory. Darling everyday that passes is a day nearer to home and a day closer to you. Let’s hope and pray that God will
hasten the end.”
Dearest A.J. also reveals their love like this Valentine’s Day exchange in February of 1944.
Dearest A.J. “I have been sitting by a fire for the last fifteen minutes reading some of your letters, which I have been saving … I think of you constantly and long for the day of our reunion. Many times have I thought how nice it would be to be able to go to the phone and say honey, ‘how about meeting me in New York?’ Or to be dancing with you at the Plaza. “…The mail just came in and I received your Valentine. Honey I was unable to send one, but you are my Valentine —with all my heart.”
From one who cares. All my love, Mitch
When the war neared its end, Mitch turned his hear to home and to A.J. in this letter of March 28th, 1945.
“Most every night when I fall off to sleep I live over the times we were together – the things we did – what we said and the many things we should have said … Oh my sweet
how I miss you. All my prayers are to get home in one piece to you…”
In an age when communication is instantaneous, Dearest A.J. harkens back to a simpler age. A time when letters could take weeks to send and receive. A time when the words marinated in the soul; when words were chosen carefully and tenderly. When the anticipation of receiving a letter made the heart grow fonder. It’s a reminder of timeless love that transcends our social media driven world.
Dearest A.J. reminds us of love stories through the ages and captures one romance out
of millions of GIs of those Tom Brokaw called the “Greatest Generation.” They shared a sense of kinship and did what they felt they were supposed to do. They fought for freedom.
They fought to get home. They fought for their girls. Mitch fought for A.J.
Mitch’s last letter in A.J.s possession came in 1946 just after they moved into their first apartment together.
My darling Wife,
I thought it would be proper and nice for me to be the sender of the first letter to you in our new home. What memories are running thru my mind —Of the places where I used to be, and how far away you were when writing to you and how close you are now. This being my first letter to you since our marriage seems very strange esp. after leaving you this morning, in fact after just talking to you on the telephone about a chair for our home.
I wish so much for you and me. I hope that God will be good to us and protect and bless our home. I desire your happiness so much.
So my darling I wish you all the best in our new home.
God answered Mitch’s prayer. He was good to them. He gave Mitch and A.J. four children and later seven grandchildren. They lived through the Cold War, survived the tumultuous ‘60s, endured financial setbacks, physical ailments and met the challenges of raising four children in an ever-changing world. Through 53 years of marriage, two constants remained: their unshakable faith in God and the enduring love they shared. It’s been years since they’ve been here. But when their children re-discovered these letters—this long silent heritage come alive—they bore witness to the love that survived between Mitch and his “Dearest A.J.”
Dearest A.J. is available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Dearest-J-Letters-Alive-Through/dp/0986223360
Did you know?
God is everywhere—even in the news. That’s why we view every news story through the lens of faith. We are committed to delivering quality independent Christian journalism you can trust. But it takes a lot of hard work, time, and money to do what we do. Help us continue to be a voice for truth in the media by supporting CBN News for as little as $1.